Hospitals bet on urgent care success

Hospitals already own more than a quarter of the nation's 9,000 urgent care clinics, but some industry experts are questioning whether it's a successful business model.

Although hospitals are familiar with delivering high-quality care, they're not always as proficient in customer service, Kaiser Health News reported.

"Things like understanding how to locate an urgent care clinic in the right retail complex, keeping the wait times down, offering people to book their appointments online--hospitals have yet to prove that they can do that effectively," Tom Charland, CEO of consulting firm Merchant Medicine, told KHN.

Baltimore's MedStar Health doesn't see its urgent care clinics as big money-makers but, rather, a great source of patient referrals, according to the article.

To ensure the success, MedStar designed its clinic with "a welcoming feel" and in an area close to potential patients' homes.

Despite a questionable return on investment, health systems continue to expand their urgent care services. Hospitals are using urgent care facilities to ease strained emergency rooms, boost admissions and rein in the costs of delivering care.

With similar goals, San Francisco-based Dignity Health last week acquired a new urgent care clinic in Erie, Pa., the Sacramento Business Journal reported. And Valley View Medical Center in Arizona just opened an urgent care clinic to offer services seven days a week, reported the Mohave Valley Daily News. MedStar is looking to open 15 clinics during the next few years.

However, the growing patient demand for urgent care centers isn't necessarily good news for doctors, with physician groups warning that patients risk a tradeoff when care is not coordinated through their regular provider, FiercePracticeManagement previously reported.

For more:
- read the KHN article
- here's the Business Journal article
- read the Daily News article